1. Tabu Ley Rochereau: The Voice of Lightness (Stern's Africa) The supreme Congolese vocalist shows off his romanticism making up for its smarmy promises with a physical softness whose comforts only a puritan cynic or strict-constructionist intellectual could refuse -- and a soukous-defining propulsion only a corpse or a shoegazing indie rocker could resist. Two discs of 1961-1977 keepers, few available before in the U.S.
2. Public Enemy: How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? (Slamjamz) Young hip-hoppers respect Chuck D's hectoring legacy from a distance, but his moralizing conscience and increasingly uncompromising disdain for gangsta lies make them nervous. So they claim his flow has thickened and his beats have fallen off, which is just more lies.
3. Fanfare Ciocarlia: Queens and Kings (Asphalt Tango) One of several not-so-"authentic" Roma bands pieced together by enlightened-capitalist record men who scoured the Romanian outback after communism went kaput, this horny ensemble can be speedy in an almost punk or bluegrass way. On this CD, inspired by both a Bucharest memorial concert and the U.S. Gypsy Caravan tour. Roma musicians representing many European styles, a panoply of vocalists included, calm them down just enough.
4. 3 Tenors of Soul: All the Way From Philadelphia (Shanachie) Conceptually, this soul repertoire/oldies/revival/whatever marketing idea avoids the sentimentality of the competition -- it's damn near in a class with Mavis Staples' movement-rooted We'll Never Turn Back, only the songs are better. Famed falsettos Russell Thompkins Jr. of the Stylistics, Ted Mills of Blue Magic and William Hart of the Delfonics revive familiar oldies you can't quite place, in part because the originals weren't quite so memorably sung.
5. Wussy: Left for Dead (Shake It) Stuck in Cincinnati with lots of great chili and the countryside not too far away, former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver and his lissome young inamorata Lisa Walker show indieland how to writ esongs, think about God and get together in the back of a van. Walker's mellow soprano is full of beans. Cleaver's high whine provides spice and, when his mood is right, meat.
Rolling Stone, Dec. 13, 2007